Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cashflow Decapitated?

Well, maybe. But for sheer news value you'd think this one might stand out. Look at this picture. That's the very definition of "moderate Muslim". Look at the late Aasiya Hassan, beautifully coiffed, glossy-lipped. On countless occasions since 9/11, I've found myself at lunch or dinner in New York, London, Washington, Paris or some other western city, sitting next to a modern Muslim woman like Mrs Hassan telling me how horrified she is at how hijabs and burqas, honor killings and genital mutilation, forced cousin marriages and the disproportionate number of Muslim wives in European battered women's shelters, how all these have come to define Muslim womanhood in the 21st century. Yet Aasiya Hassan ended up no differently - all because her husband's TV network had a cashflow problem?

The media's lack of curiosity is in marked contrast to their willingness to propagandize for the launch of Mr Hassan's station. It also helps explain why the US newspaper business is dying.


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50% of the lawyers in the Boston area have hemorhoids; the rest are perfect ________.

My other favorite is: "Q: What do you call 1,000 lawyers on the bottom of the sea? A: A good start."

And of course a huge number of politicians are lawyers. Need I say more?

We Are All Fascists Now

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But that’s not socialism.  Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock:  the abolition of private property.  I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing.  What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business.  Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.

It’s fascism.  Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons:  first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content;  it’s been a pure epithet for many decades.  Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.

Second, not one person in a thousand knows what fascist political economy was.

What Kills A Skunk

Ham quotes Rep. Schock:

I found it very interesting that after the president finished his speech and I stayed around, not one employee at that facility approached me and asked me to vote for this bill. In fact, I have received over 1,400 phone calls, e-mails, and letters from Caterpillar employees alone asking me to oppose this legislation

Chinese Hate

02/13/09 London, England “We hate you guys…”

Mr. Luo Ping, director general at China’s Banking Regulatory Commission, speaking in New York on Wednesday, shared his opinion of U.S. bailout policies:

“Once you start issuing $1 trillion-$2 trillion …we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys but there is nothing much we can do.”

Reports in the press this week say that China is considering ways to diversify out of the dollar. The Chinese are no fools. They see what is coming. And they know what it will do to them – the holders of the largest pile of dollars ever assembled.

The Financial Times made it perfectly clear to them in a cartoon yesterday. It shows Barack Obama in front of a huge smoking trashcan filled with dollars. The president is pouring on gasoline.

Yes, dear reader, Mr. Ping has caught on.

Friday, February 13, 2009

We Don't Have Time To Do That

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Republican Congresscritters Are Idiots

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NO LOVE FOR THE STIMULUS FROM LAMAR ALEXANDER: “This bill will give American workers $8 a week in their paychecks in exchange for passing along a $1 trillion debt to our grandchildren. The entire New Deal in today’s dollars cost only half of what this bill costs.” To be fair, it’ll be $13 a week until next January.
Which means there are no words to even describe the Democrats.

Welcome To Your Future

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Essentially, Americans had migrated from one society to another — from a society of high trust to a society of low trust, from a society of optimism to a society of foreboding, from a society in which certain financial habits applied to a society in which they did not. In the new world, investors had no basis from which to calculate risk. Families slowly deleveraged. Bankers had no way to measure the future value of assets.

Cognitive scientists distinguish between normal risk-assessment decisions, which activate the reward-prediction regions of the brain, and decisions made amid extreme uncertainty, which generate activity in the amygdala. These are different mental processes using different strategies and producing different results. Americans were suddenly forced to cope with this second category, extreme uncertainty.

President Obama’s promises of 3.5 million jobs now seemed a sham and his former certainty a delusion. The political climate grew more polarized.

On W As A Comparative Genius

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Until now, most people assumed that the US conducted its Predator strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets from bases in Afghanistan.  Now, however, Senator Dianne Feinstein has exposed a Pakistani partnership on Predator launches that the previous administration tried to keep quiet.  Her offhand remark may put the entire program in jeopardy:

A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an airbase inside that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counterterrorism collaboration with the United States.

This isn’t the first time Feinstein has blown a sensitive operation by opening her mouth, either.  Californians will recall that Mayor Feinstein called a press conference to discuss the Night Stalker case
She divulged previously-confidential information about Richard Ramirez’ shoes and gun — and on hearing it, Ramirez promptly dumped them into the bay

Thursday, February 12, 2009



Washington seems to be in chaos at this moment, as no one is sure what is actually in the bill the Democrats have (apparently) agreed on. U.S. News' Washington Whispers column--which, by the way, was a feature of the magazine when I started reading it in the mid-1960s--says that if you want to be able to read the bill, you pretty much have to be a lobbyist:

We're receiving E-mails from Capitol Hill staffers expressing frustration that they can't get a copy of the stimulus bill agreed to last night at a price of $789 billion. What's more, staffers are complaining about who does have a copy: K Street lobbyists.

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin asked the Congressional Budget Office to figure out what the cost of the pork bill will be if its 20 "most popular" provisions--I'm not sure how those were identified, but the list includes sacred cows like Head Start--are kept in place for ten years. The answer: $3.27 trillion. Which implies either mind-boggling debt or major tax increases.

The Raid

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Health: The plan includes subsidies to allow people who are laid off to purchase health insurance through the federal COBRA plan. There is also money to support hospitals seeking to modernize health information technology.

Infrastructure: The infrastructure section of the package includes funds for building and repairing highways and bridges, expanding transit systems, upgrading airports and rail systems and building and repairing federal buildings — with the focus on making them more energy efficient. Funds are available for clean water projects, cleanup of environmental waste areas and nuclear waste cleanups.

Nothing listed here is stimulative. Nothing. This is all the pork that everyone has denied is in the bill. This is the left’s shopping list of the last 40 years rolled into one big raid on your wallet.

I Can't Wait For The Second Month

The pork and the overall spending are every bit as bad as the critics say, but in the long run, they are mere distractions. The real damage comes from other, less noticed provisions in the bills.

The House and/or Senate stimulus bills would undo the 1996 welfare reforms, explode entitlement spending by a cool quarter trillion dollars, lay the groundwork for the federal government’s takeover of our health care system, double Uncle Sam’s already overbearing role in education, require taxpayers to pick up the bail tab for potentially dangerous felons, allow unemployed Wall Street executives to qualify for Medicaid, and reignite the fires of trade protectionism, thereby risking a global trade war.  

Not bad for the first month of unified liberal rule in Washington, eh?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


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Roosevelt didn't have an easy time with his agenda; he had to first emasculate the U.S. Supreme Court. Higgs points out that federal courts had respect for the Constitution as late as the 1930s. They issued some 1,600 injunctions to restrain officials from carrying out acts of Congress.

A more fundamental question is: Should Washington be guided by the Constitution? In explaining the Constitution, James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist Paper 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce." Has the Constitution been amended to permit Congress to tax, spend and regulate as it pleases or have Americans said, "To hell with the Constitution"?

The Hammering This Time

Obama's superficial and dishonest treatment of serious problems might work at press conferences, but it works much less well among those we know are paying attention, e.g., people who have their savings on the line.

Today his Treasury Secretary
announced the next phase of the bank bailout plan. It turns out that this will involve a largely undefined "public-private partnership" to raise a trillion or so to buy off these "troubled assets" (i.e., the crooked sub-prime loans Fannie and Freddie did so much to push).

The stock market promptly tanked. . . .The MSM is saying that this is because Secretary Geithner's plan is short on specifics. The truth is that the market tanked because it knows exactly what the muzzed-over specifics will be: The few remaining relatively healthy banks will be forced to buy billions in poisonous assets. In other words, as ever in the nicey-sounding world of "public-private partnerships," the private parties will get hammered.

That Was Him

An excerpt from Geithner's presentation today:

The causes of this crisis are many and complex. They accumulated over a long period of time, and they will take time to resolve. Governments and central banks around the world pursued policies that, with the benefit of hindsight, caused a huge global boom in credit, pushed housing prices and financial markets to levels that defied gravity.

Geithner was the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The "central banks" that "pursued policies"? That was him.

Not Used

This afternoon, I heard John Cogan of the Hoover Institution present a persuasive analysis of why the Democratic spending legislation (and in particular the House version) will not appreciably stimulate the economy any time soon. Cogan proceed from the assumption, unassailable I think, that the way government policy can help stimulate the economy is by causing unproductive resources (e.g., a worker or inventory) to be put into productive use. By and large, the House stimulus package does not meet this test, especially during the time period when we're likely to be in the current recession.

According to Cogan, about 20 percent of the package consists of temporary tax cuts. These didn't work when we tried them a year ago and aren't likely to work now. The reason is that, in bad economic times, people tend not to spend money they receive on a one-time basis. Cogan presented charts showing how small an effect on consumption the 2008 tax rebates had.

What Problem?

Monday, February 09, 2009

COTD: Cataclysm

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Doing nothing is the best option. The credit markets went haywire after Lehman failed because the market had expected the government to bail them out like they had everyone else. Government interference in the markets is bad enough; inconsistent interference in the markets causes cataclysm.

Some level of turbulence in the markets should be expected and respected. That is life. To demand that there be no creative destruction in the economy is to adopt a spoiled, childish attitude. Instead of complaining about bank misbehavior, people would be better off spending their time protesting the stealing of money from the taxpayer to bail out banks.

And bankruptcy is not nationalization. They are two different concepts. To go bankrupt is to cease financial existence. To be nationalized is to be taken over by force by the government. The former happens; the latter is illegitimate. The government has no business declaring winners and losers in the market.

The New Boss (Daley Edition)

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GOOD THING THE ERA OF BUSH IS OVER! Obama Administration Invokes State Secrets Privilege in Anti-Torture Lawsuit. ‘Cause if Bush did this, it would be a sign of lawlessness, and incipient fascism. [Well, sure, if Bush did it. -- ed. Yeah, that's what I said.]

Plus, Glenn Greenwald: “Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability — resoundingly and disgracefully. . . . What makes this particularly appalling and inexcusable is that Senate Democrats had long vehemently opposed the use of the ’state secrets’ privilege in exactly the way that the Bush administration used it in this case, even sponsoring legislation to limits its use and scope. Yet here is Obama, the very first chance he gets, invoking exactly this doctrine in its most expansive and abusive form.” Meet the new boss, yada yada. Some of us are more surprised about this than others . . . .


My question for today is, what will the citizen do when he has lost his job, can no longer depend on the "social safety net," and needs to earn money any way he can? Forget the minimum wage -- just money for immediate food and shelter.

We are presented, it seems to me, with two terrible "options." The first is, that honest citizen methodically continues to obey all laws, and he and his immediate dependents quietly starve. And the second is, the entire economy is metamorphosed into a black market, carrying society into real lawlessness, as the Nanny State crumbles under its own weight.

Perhaps my prognosis is too dire. Discuss.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Missing Madoff

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In 2000, Markopolos was the resident math whiz at Boston’s Rampart Investment Management when he was asked by his boss to figure out a way to match Madoff’s fabulous double-digit returns by figuring out how Madoff did it. But that proved much easier said than done:

“I’d say, ‘Hey Harry, how come you can’t run a program like this?,’ ” said Frank Casey, a former Rampart colleague who now runs a consulting firm for hedge fund investors.

For Markopolos, though, it was no joke. Again and again he could not simulate Madoff’s returns, using information he had gathered about Madoff’s trades in stocks and options. Madoff seemed to make money whether stock markets went up or down, a red flag to Markopolos.

“You can’t dominate all markets,” Markopolos said. “You have to have some losses.” Also, Madoff seemed unusually secretive, even to his own clients—another warning sign.

Unmitigated Disaster

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The fiscal stimulus bill being debated in Congress not only won't help the economy, it will make the recession much worse, says Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital.

Schiff scoffs at the notion the economic decline is starting to level off and concedes no government action means a "terrible" recession. But the path of increased government intervention will lead to "unmitigated disaster," says Schiff, who gained notoriety in 2007-08 for his prescient calls on the housing bubble and U.S. stocks.

the government is "now taking on the mantle" of consumer of last resort, he continues, predicting the bond bubble will soon burst - if it hasn't already - ultimately leading to a collapse of the dollar and an "inflationary depression worse than anything any of us have ever seen."

If nothing else, Schiff is an nonpartisan critic of American policymakers, comparing President Bush to Herbert Hoover and President Obama to FDR, and neither in a favorable way.

Return Of The Saviour

“A problem that was created by building up of too much debt will not be solved with yet more debt,” Gov. Mark Sanford said Sunday, making a reference to the federal deficit spending that will likely finance the federal stimulus package.

“We’re moving precipitously close to what I would call a savior-based economy,” Sanford also said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

The South Carolina Republican said such an economy is “what you see in Russia or Venezuela or Zimbabwe or places like that where it matters not how good your product is to the consumer but what your political connection is to those in power.”

“That is quite different than a market-based economy where some rise and some fall but there’s a consequence to making a stupid decision,” Sanford said after pointing to the powers granted to the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to help deal with the current economic crisis.


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If you put a tax cut into the hands of a business or family, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to invest that or invest it in America.
They’re free to go invest anywhere that they want if they choose to invest.

If you feel like you’ve just been hit in the solar plexus, welcome to the club. While technically true, his statements are so stunningly ignorant it’s hard to fathom how one could actually articulate them with a straight face.

This man who wanted to be president is sure that only government can “invest” these dollars properly - like the first half of the TARP funds, some of which went toward buying banks in China - but that the majority of Americans would “invest” them ignorantly or not at all.

Same Old Stuff

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So the man who bristled at any questioning of his patriotism now implies that those who won’t vote for this monstrosity of a bill are unpatriotic?  I told you that dissent would become unpatriotic.

Looks like the same old stuff to me

Post Democracy

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Then, amazingly, he told the Head of State: 'I don't care about your opinions on it [the Treaty].'

Czechs are sensitive about being ordered around by politicians from other countries.

They remember how Hitler screamed so wildly at poor President Emil Hacha in 1939 that the aged professor collapsed and had to be revived by injections. They remember Josef Stalin telling them they couldn't have American Marshall Aid, and Leonid Brezhnev telling them to strangle the Prague Spring.

Klaus struck back hard.

'This is incredible,' he retorted. He directly compared Cohn-Bendit's dictatorial lecture to the past behaviour of the Kremlin. 'I did not think anything like this was possible. I have not experienced anything like this for the past 19 years [since the Soviets left]. I thought it was a matter of the past, that we live in a democracy.'

Then he added these inflammatory words, which the EU would much rather nobody had uttered: 'But it is post-democracy, really, that rules the EU.'


Having come from the federal sector and now retired, I can say that the on an equal job basis government is, at best, 65% as efficient as their private counterparts. The extreme overhead on federal workforce time and need for accountability drain money, reduce efficiency and drag out projects.

Mind you, Congress exempts itself from the very same health, safety and workforce regulation they impose on others... so there is a coccoon effect where they think they way they can order their staff around is how the rest of the world works... or the rest of the federal government works.
You are the best judge of spending money. It takes government to really create a huge and intractable problem.
I can and do blame government for changing the accounting regulations and putting loan quotas so that money gets pushed out of the door in non-sound ways in the first place... and those regulations are *still* on the books. The source of the problem has gone un-fixed.


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Credulity Watch

I fully understand that it has now become politically inexpedient for you to do what you promised on the campaign trail, but perhaps you should have thought of that before you opened your big mouth. And perhaps the American people might find it interesting to know what you were up to while you were telling them that Iraq wasn't the central front in the war on terror (a judgment al Qaeda seems not to agree with, to judge from their public statements); while you were criticizing the Bush administration for not providing sufficient medical care and armor for our troops? They might be interested in what you were doing while you were telling America Afghanistan and Pakistan were the priorities, and not Iraq.

It turns out Mr. Obama was one of only 14 Senators (10 Democrats, 3 Republicans, 1 Independent) who were busy trying to cut off funding for the very things he said he'd do we if elected him.

Nonsense For The Credulous

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President Obama has had, by general consent, a torrid First Fortnight. To put it another way, it has taken precisely two weeks for the illusion that brought him to power to be exposed for the nonsense that it so obviously was.
Despite the fact that he came to power promising to ‘ban all earmarks’, his ‘stimulus’ bill represents billions of dollars of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections -- which have nothing to do with kick-starting the economy and everything to do with favouring pet Democrat causes.
given Obama’s radical roots in the neo-Marxist, nihilist politics of Saul Alinsky, it is the undermining of America’s fundamental values that is likely to be this President’s most strategically important goal. I have also suggested that, since this agenda is promoted through stealth politics which gull the credulous middle-classes while destroying the ground upon which they are standing, his second-tier appointments should be closely scrutinised.

Why He Lost

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. John McCain says that Democratic lawmakers putting together an economic stimulus plan are no more open to input from the opposing party than the GOP was during the Bush administration.

The Arizona Republican says that he thought there was going to be a change in the tone of partisanship in Washington when the Obama administration took over, but he adds that he's not seeing it.

McCain says he favors an economic stimulus bill about half the size of the $820 billion package the Democrats favor.

Open Orwell

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With tools like eightmaps — and there are bound to be more of them — strident political partisans can challenge their opponents directly, one voter at a time. The results, some activists fear, could discourage people from participating in the political process altogether.

That is why the soundtrack to is a loud gnashing of teeth among civil libertarians, privacy advocates and people supporting open government. The site pits their cherished values against each other: political transparency and untarnished democracy versus privacy and freedom of speech.

“When I see those maps, it does leave me with a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach,” said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, which has advocated for open democracy. “This is not really the intention of voter disclosure laws. But that’s the thing about technology. You don’t really know where it is going to take you.”